I work on the fifth floor of our building and my desk looks out across the north of the city. I can see Germany straight ahead and if I stretch round I can see France over to the left! Very cool, but something else has been drawing my attention over the last few weeks.
Directly below us is what used to be a minimum security jail. Its now deserted but protected from demolition because of its unique design. It is shaped like a “Y” I suppose and the idea was the guards could sit in the centre of the Y and keep an eye on the three wings. Pretty clever, although not always effective. My boss has a great photo, taken from his office window in the mid seventies of guys climbing down the wall from a window with the help of some bed sheets! They escaped so they could attend the annual carnival here in Basel and afterwards two of the three escapees returned themselves to the prison! I’d scan the photo and put it up here only he’s gone and sold it to one of the local newspapers. Copyright and all that!
Anyway, close to the prison is the old hospital and its being cleared to make way for a new research building I think. So a few weeks ago the construction company moved in and started clearing it out. Everyone in the lab started imagining the building being rigged with explosives and/or huge wrecking balls coming in to take it down. But in true Swiss style, this was the furthest from the truth.
They brought in a fleet of skips and sorted the fictures and fittings out for recycling. So windows were put into one, wooden furniture into another etc. Those were taken away and the heavy machinery moved in. Now I thought, there’s going to be some action. Bring on the explosions, the six storey building crumpling to the ground after huge detonations, clouds of dust sweeping towards our building etc etc.
Nope, they have taken it down one floor at a time using a big concrete crunching thing. Impressive in its own right it just doesn’t have the same impact as dynamite. Of course, there are guys with water hoses to keep the dust down and mini diggers (that reminded me of the Doozers from Fraggle rock!) running around shifting the resulting rubble. Its all very ordered, under control, efficient and boring.
We hold out hope that they might get it wrong, crunch the wrong column and cause the whole thing to collapse onto itself like a pack of cards. Considering the Swiss can tunnel through the Alps and build train stations on rivers, I’m not holding out much hope.